Friday, March 30, 2012

Que Pasa, Picasa?

I haven't been able to post anything since last week, ever since I upgraded to Picasa 3.9.   I can't now access some google sites too. Very frustrating. This is a test post, to see if I can upload something from my old Picasa web album since I can't access it via URL. I also can't seem to upload anything new to my web albums right now. 

I like this sofa for my den. Looks nice and soft, unlike stiff foam sofas.

Now this is is another inspiration for my den. It's almost there. I need to install a flat screen TV. Another thing on my to-do list but I'm getting bogged down by this Picasa fiasco! Blogger seems to have a new template too! Why do they do this to us?

Looks like it works. I was able to upload these shots. More later!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Let's Hang...

 photo from Apartment Therapy

The girls have always wanted a hanging chair in their bedroom. I've only seen elongated hanging chairs made of rattan on the roadside going to Batangas. My friend Sandy bought a two-seater hanging chair from them, and we love sitting on it in her beach house.

Then I saw this acrylic bubble chair in Singapore. Apparently it's an iconic piece of furniture originally designed in 1968 by Eero Aarno. From the website links, I learned that the price of one of these original bubbles was $4900! Whaaat?

I don't suppose the one I saw in Singapore was an original bubble, because they have similar bubbles being sold online for about $300, made in China. The Eero Aarno website has such a cheekily-worded page on "Asian fakes" that makes me want to go out and buy a fake one right now. I know it's the opposite of what they intend, but that that's the effect of mindless and sarcastic text.

Ideal minimalist bedroom

The ones on the roadside to Batangas look more like this one pictured above, which is a bit bulky, and definitely not minimalist.

These rattan egg-shaped chairs might fit better in their bedroom since it looks narrower, and it will satisfy their need to "hang."

 Bohemian fun

Those roadside shops might be happy to custom-make one for me. Then I'll be the proud owner of an original hand-crafted hanging chair, instead of a smug owner of an acrylic copy, or worse, a penniless  owner of an original Aarno.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Pintxos Crawl in San Sebastian

I was going to start this post by saying "we found  ourselves in San Sebastian in the middle of our Spain roadtrip..." but that would be inaccurate. Actually, like a well-planned crescendo, San Sebastian was to be the highlight of this food road trip. From Barcelona, we had driven through Zaragoza, and Pamplona and now we were in San Sebastian for one special lunch, and two dinners (yes, we planned this trip based on how many special meals we could have).  From here we would make our way down to Madrid via Bilbao, Burgos and Segovia.

 Bar Martinez

Our two dinners were going to be casual pintxos crawls (an event the locals call a "txikiteo"--chiki-te-o), and then we were going to splurge for lunch at the 3-Michelin-starred Arzak.

Pintxos (pinchos) are the Basque equivalent of tapas--small dishes served in a bar setting. In San Sebastian though, they have reached a different level of gastronomy. Many of the dishes are similar, if not superior, to the courses served as part of a very expensive degustation meal. There are the basic appetizer-looking pintxos like croquetas and deviled eggs, home-cooked type pintxos like a small serving of fish with mashed potatoes, and then those that are prepared like petite haute cuisine--like foie gras with apples and those pictured in this post.

A coffee table book displayed at our hotel's reception desk

This trip was off-season so the Parte Vieja ("old town", where most pinxtos bars are) was a ghost town with only a few groups of people hopping from bar to bar. Unlike the locals who limit themselves to a couple of pinxtos and a txikito (a small glass of wine) in each bar before moving on to the next bar, our "turo-turo" training was our downfall.  At the first bar, we were so excited we pointed and reached for everything that looked good, not even aware that we could also have pintxos made to order.

 At La Cepa

When we moved to the next place, we did the same thing. We filled ourselves with all these delicious pintxos, guessing wildly which ones were good based on their appearance. After the second place, we couldn't even think of going to a third bar. So much for our txikiteo. We decided to call it a night, our stomachs full and the men scared they would get bangungot.

The next morning, we had a scheduled walking tour with a private guide. One of the more valuable things Agustin shared with us that morning was a list of his favorite "of-the-moment" pinxtos bars along with the names of the dishes we were to order. 

Our guy, Agustin (bottom left)

Another pintxos resource is todopintxos, a website dedicated to rating different pintxos-- a very useful site for planning a txikiteo. Unfortunately we had been on the road a few days now, and no one in the group had done extensive research on what to order in each bar. Our first night out was an experiment.

Agustin had a chuckle when he heard we only visited two bars the night before. "No, no, just order one or two things--the specialty--and then move on to the next place."  He explained that in Donostia (San Sebastian's Basque name), a txikiteo is a ritual focused mostly on socializing.  We had been doing a lot of socializing within our traveling group for the past week, so our goal was more about the food!

Some members of the cast of characters on this trip

Armed with Agustin's list on the second evening, we set off again for the Parte Vieja, a short walk from our hotel. But did we follow it? Again the turo-turo syndrome was hard to control, with people wanting to taste different things. We had a good start. Ordering a couple of pintxos in the first bar, we focused on the made-to-order dishes and not those on display.

 I think this is Borda Berri

We were suitably primed, and at the second bar, we ordered the recommended vegetable tempura. Then B regressed and ordered an ordinary-looking ham and cheese panini because all the locals around us were chomping on it. After one bite, I realized why. We were, after all, in Spain--land of Iberico ham.

At this point in the evening  I knew we weren't going to make it through our list. 


At the third bar that night, we had another promising start with a hot made-to-order pintxo.  And then... one of the guys lost it and ordered a steak! A couple of the other guys caved in and said they wanted a steak too. So much for all our little dishes--this was definitely the end of our txikiteo. At least we reached three bars.

 La Vina's fabulous cheesecake

But we remembered that one of the more insistent suggestions of Agustin was the award-winning cheesecake of La Viña (Yes, individual dishes are given awards every year). With much effort, we dragged our stuffed bodies over.  While savoring every bite of this wonderful cheesecake, we were regretting having to leave the next day. I was sure that by the third time, we would've completed the perfect pintxos crawl.

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Suite at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

The Marina Bay Sands was the host hotel of the YPO Global Leadership Conference this year. This is the first time the GLC has been held in Asia, and I think Singapore was the perfect choice. The Marina Bay Conference center right next door, is a ginormous location with impressive facilities. The ballroom can easily hold 2000 or more participants.

Looking up at MBS from the promenade deck

I was too busy attending workshops that I didn't take any interesting pictures of the convention center, but when we first arrived, I photographed the 3rd largest suite of Marina Bay Sands. This was used as the "YPO hospitality suite" at the start of the week, meaning, if you arrived at the hotel and your room wasn't ready yet, you could come here to freshen up and have a snack.

You could then go next door and register for the conference, socialize, attend a few things, and then go come back to the suite later in the day, freshen up and snack again and hope the management doesn't figure out that you're just trying to hang out in the suite even if your room is ready. Seriously, it's a very useful arrangement for the delegates who flew in from far away.

This is the first time I was happy that our room wasn't ready--because it gave me a chance to feel rich and famous if only for a brief moment.  More than the interior design, which was very nice but not exceptionally spectacular, the suite was very impressive because of its size.

 The view from the living/dining room is fabulous.

 Second bedroom

Bathroom of the second bedroom

 Master bedroom

Above is the master bathroom.  The left side had a complete toilet/shower/sink, and so did the right side. So it was actually two full bathrooms separated by a bathtub in the middle. It was a big room, with smaller, private compartments. I think I like this better than one huge bathroom.

 Another angle of the living room.

Aside from the two big bedrooms, this suite had a separate TV room/den (more like a karaoke room), a kitchen, massage room, a small gym and even a salon chair with a shampoo bowl.

A few years ago, we got special access to the "high rollers' suites" at the Venetian in Las Vegas through a YPO "meeting-within-meeting" event (All YPOers attending the Hotel Design show in Las Vegas gathered together for a smaller meeting.) Some of the main speakers of the trade show even spoke to the small group, and as a bonus, one of the guys arranged a private tour of the Venetian's high-roller's floor which included the suites and a private gambling room. 

 Touring the high-rollers' floor at the Venetian in Las Vegas a few years ago

The Venetian suites were quite impressive, but it was also the very first time I saw suites of this kind. We were told that they don't have a nightly rate for the suite; it's reserved and used, complimentary, by the casino's high rollers.  These types of guests fly in from all over the world. A few anecdotes were shared on their guests' idiosyncrasies, but because of their code of confidentiality, no names were disclosed. Being "no-rollers" at all, we would've never been invited near any of these suites, so I was glad for the opportunity to take a peek into this world.

I learned from this Venetian tour that many high-rollers are from the Asia Pacific region. The Marina Bay Sands must have affected the business of the Venetian. 

Finally our regular room was ready...

It was a comfortable room with a great view.  I always take lots of pictures of the room, and specially the bathrooms, to see what design elements I can copy for the renovations I do.

The bathroom felt bigger than it really was because of the glass partitions, but I never felt comfortable in here because it felt too open, and cold air from the bedroom made the bathroom cold too. I think the master bathroom in the huge suite was a better idea.

The bathroom sliding door idea is a good one though. It's worth copying.

 picture taken from inside the shower stall, looking at the bathroom entrance

 sliding door from outside the bathroom

Singapore is always wonderful, no surprises about this neat, clean, and efficient city. 

And the GLC was amazing.  I'll probably write a post on that.


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